5 Ways to Naturally Reduce Inflammation In Your Body
Updated: Jun 8, 2019
Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, Alzheimer's, arthritis - these seemingly diverse diseases are all linked to one common denominator - Inflammation.
Generally, inflammation is a process meant to heal and is often regarded as your body’s first line of defense against damage to tissues, infection, or toxic exposure. If you’ve ever sprained your ankle or cut your finger, the heat, redness, swelling, and pain that you felt was a result of your body’s inflammatory response.
Chronic inflammation, however, is a completely different condition. Because we live in a pro-inflammatory world, many of us experience this inflammatory response continuously throughout our lives without even knowing it. Inflammatory agents include pollution, cigarette smoking, physical inactivity, stress, central obesity, and the “food” that we put into our bodies. This state of chronic inflammation, resulting from too many pro-inflammatory agents and not enough anti-inflammatory ones, plays a role in almost all chronic diseases.
So what can we do? The good news is that research has shown us that lifestyle modification (without medication) is incredibly effective at reducing inflammation in the body, thereby decreasing your risk for many different, but related, diseases.
Here are 5 important strategies to incorporate today to decrease inflammation in the body:
1. Increase your intake of Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have powerful anti-inflammatory effects in the body and have been linked with reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases.
They are essential fatty acids, which means your body can’t make them and they must come from your diet. The best dietary sources include fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna), flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and soybeans.
2. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake
Are you rolling your eyes? Stop and hear me out. Fruits and vegetables are the most nutrient dense foods in our food supply and they are packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants and phytochemicals. Inflammation is all about balance – when your body has more anti-inflammatory agents than pro-inflammatory ones, you will start to see relief from the symptoms of inflammation.
I recommend including fruits and vegetables at as many meals as possible – the more the better. While they are all good, the most anti-inflammatory varieties include green leafy vegetables, berries, and vibrantly hued vegetables.
3. Decrease your intake of highly inflammatory foods
Now that we have talked about what to absolutely include in your diet, let’s talk about the foods that are actually causing inflammation in your body. When we continuously eat pro-inflammatory foods, we are setting our bodies up to be in a state of chronic inflammation.
Here are some of the worst offenders:
Trans fat: A diet high in trans fatty acids has been shown to increase inflammatory markers in the blood and is strongly linked with chronic diseases stemming from chronic inflammation.
Foods that are high in trans fatty acids include many processed foods such as cookies, crackers,
and chips, processed baked goods, and even children’s cereals. To identify trans fat, simply look
for the word partially hydrogenated on the ingredients list. This means it contains trans fat.
Processed and charred meats: The scientific evidence showing the adverse health effects of consuming processed meats is overwhelming. Furthermore, most processed meats are cooked for long periods at high temperatures, producing high levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). A buildup of AGEs in the blood increases the risk for chronic inflammation, cancer, and heart disease.
Processed meats include hams, bacon, sausages, salamis, hot dogs, bologna, spam, and deli
Added processed sugar: High intake of nutritionally devoid refined sugars increases levels of inflammatory messengers in the blood stream and over time, lead to chronic inflammation.
Added sugars are found in soda, candy, processed fruit drinks, white breads and pastas, baked
goods, and other refined carbohydrates.
4. Decrease stress
Stress is an often overlooked, but incredibly important, contributor to inflammation in the body. Stress triggers the hormone cortisol, which is best known for its involvement in our “fight or flight” response. When you are constantly stressed, you are pumping out high levels of cortisol, which will trigger pro-inflammatory cytokines from the immune system. When chronically elevated, cortisol can have harmful effects on weight, body fat, immune function, and chronic disease risk.
Some strategies to decrease stress include improving your sleep quality, exercise, breathing techniques, meditation, and potentially addressing psychological and emotional issues. Effective techniques to decrease stress will differ for everyone, but finding the right method for you is extremely important to your overall health.
5. Move more
Our bodies were meant to move. More and more research is coming out about the detrimental effects of chronic sitting. Physical activity is not just about the 30-60 minutes of exercise you do each day - it includes the other 15-16 hours you spend awake each day as well.
Being more physically active throughout the day, including walking more frequently, exhibits protection against inflammation in your body.
Exercise itself is also a powerful anti-inflammatory mediator that has been shown to chronically upregulate your body’s antioxidant defense systems. This means that your body will have a bigger and stronger antioxidant army to fight off inflammatory agents, thereby working to decrease chronic inflammation and disease.